Category Archives: Techniques

Variations on a Theme


Dimensional Cuff Bracelet Tutorial       oval bracelet

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I make many analogies between jewelry design and music. This is yet another. Variations on a theme bring to mind classical music in which many of the great composers embellished their own basic motives to create numerous variations. Some contemporary musicians have also taken short snippets from classical music, varied these and employed them in new music.

Variations are also a big part of training in creative thinking wherein we ask participants to think flexibly and change an original idea. Sometimes the ideas that follow are better than the first and sometimes this exercise simply serves to reassure the thinker that they had the best idea in the first place.

The same is often true in jewelry design. I try many different versions of a “theme” or design to see whether it might be improved. Sometimes I initiate this process out of sheer boredom when I’m tired of the same design, yet it is still popular with customers. The following is an example of this.

You will likely recognize the bracelet on the left above that is a design I’ve been making for at least five years. I also sell the tutorial for it in my etsy shop and it has also been popular there. (Thank you customers!)

When a boutique customer called to she needed more of the same, I realized it was probably time for another variation on this design. I’ve made it with square and rectangular faces in the past, but wanted something new. After experimentation with shapes, I created the bracelet shown on the above right – a variation on the theme. I plan to make this one again using more colorful gemstones that will show up better against the weaving.

Another popular bracelet, the wave, that initiated so long ago that I can’t locate a photo, also needed revamping. I changed the initial bracelet shape to triangles as shown below.

wave tri

Finally, still considering the wave bracelet theme, I made a new “cursive” bracelet that proved to be a bit tricky. This one required plenty of wraps to help the 14 gauge wire hold its shape. I think this one holds further possibilities.

cursive bracelet

This was an interesting and somewhat challenging exercise and I continue to think “what if” regarding variation possibilities. But for now, I think I’ll just go play some classical music on the piano with a score that someone else wrote.

A Season to Remember

It often seems that Easter is the “lessor” of the two main Christian seasons. This is largely because merchants spend months reminding us that Christmas is coming and we’d better get out and make those great sales. There is less “hoopla” surrounding Easter; yet it’s just as important in Christian heritage.

I like Easter! It reminds me of standing in my little short white choir robe with the big bow at the neck waiting in the wings of the sanctuary for our turn to advance down the isle and sing. I can still smell the starch in that bow and feel the pinch on my toes in my new Easter shoes. My Mom usually led the children’s group and then waited for us to arrange our wiggly selves while she adjusted her music at the piano. We were advised to smile and sing or vice versa and I could never quite do both at once. I just remember be glad to get that itchy robe off!

We usually ate deviled eggs and ham for our Easter dinner. When I got a bit older, I made cake with icing, green colored coconut and jelly bean decorations. Much later, I became the one at the piano for my own little choir.

Now, I enjoy singing with my grandson and making crosses for the Easter season. I know these aren’t just for Easter, but it is a fitting time to create them and remember their meaning. I’ve been preparing crosses for a class I’m teaching in San Antonio. You’ve seen these photos before.

scroll cross

I wanted to try some other styles and have a couple of new designs.


The first is simply multiple pieces of wire wrapped to hold together. I found this to be tricky, but liked the result. The cross on the right is made from the same soldered base cross design as the filigree crosses, but features weaving and the use of bead embellishment without the filigree piece. It has a small copper disc on the back, like the filigree crosses, which covers the wrapping that secures the beads.

I’m hoping to spend more time “near the cross” in the weeks before Easter and will show you if anything else “hatches” on the design table.

Making Cold Connections

Thinking of the word cold could lead us to a conversation about weather or about personalities. Have you ever heard someone say that a person is cold? Of course that usually means that the person isn’t very friendly. In that case, aloof might be another term to describe the person. Most of us prefer friends and acquaintances who are warm! By the way, I also prefer weather that is WARM!

I’ve been making cold connections for the past couple of weeks. No, I haven’t been meeting cold people and the weather here has been quite warm. Instead, I’ve been making cold connections with metal. When we join things to metal in a way that doesn’t require heat, usually through soldering, we say we’ve used a cold connection. This week my cold connections have been through riveting.

It was my turn to lead and share a technique at our monthly Faux meet up. Yesterday, we had about 20 in attendance and I think most of us got a little better at riveting in the time we spent together. I was determined to have some new projects that my fellow designers could try and thus the reason for the past weeks of making those cold connections. I thought you might enjoy seeing a couple of the pieces I designed.

The first is the easier of the two and is just a simple variation of the wave necklaces that I’ve made. This one features a riveted charm in the center. This charm utilizes both a copper disc and a nickel silver disc with the center cut out. I riveted these two together and also riveted a pewter finding in the middle. I used a headpin that I balled with the torch for the center rivet. The other rivets were purchased from Rio Grande Jewelry Supply. I wired the charm onto the wave necklace armature.

wave rivet

The second necklace is a bit modern looking, but it’s definitely different. I used alcohol ink to color some copper discs and then riveted them together with nickel silver discs. Again, I used balled headpins for the rivets. I also riveted some big hole rose quartz beads that I got from Magpie Gemstones ( onto a couple of the discs. Although you only see two rose quartz beads on this necklace, it took four to make it if you count the two I broke while trying to rivet them. You really have to be careful when riveting a gemstone.

rose rivetedI demonstrated how to make a few other riveted charms, but haven’t yet used all of these in a particular design.

Riveted Charms and LinksI really enjoyed working with my friends yesterday and helping them initiate or hone their riveting skills.  Although they were making cold connections, thankfully none of them were cold!

Here’s hoping all your personal connections are warm and that if you end up with cold connections, you’re riveting!

Forming with Folds

Those of us who love to learn new things sometimes move to new avenues for this too soon. Either the initial fun wears off, something new calls our name, or time for the learning simply runs out. Often for me, I move on to something new before completely exploring the myriad of possibilities for creative development in the existing arena. This may have been the case with fold forming, a technique  developed by Charles Lewton-Brain. “Mr. Fold Form's” book, Foldforming, contains a wealth of information on how to construct various shapes from metal; yet, it doesn’t show as many completed pieces of jewelry as I would like to see.

Frequent and long time readers may recall that fold forming was the new technique I chose to develop last December and January during the winter lull between completion of the Fall products and the development of the Spring designs. Unfortunately, I may have moved too quickly from fold forming last year and back into rapid production for my customers. Also, I “closed” on the technique partly because I couldn’t figure out new things to do with it. I chose not to face the somewhat discouraging struggle that forces one into creative generation. I currently have renewed interest in fold forming due to a couple of happenings. Two of my lucky friends took a recent workshop with Kim St. Jean at the Texas Beadfest and their discussion of the class helped add to my refinement of the technique. Also, I gave a demonstration on the technique at a recent gathering of wire workers. Therefore, I had to practice.

The trick for me with fold forming has been trying to make something besides a leaf that would comfortably work as a piece of jewelry. First, I practiced some different ways to hammer on a few leaves and learned how to better ruffle the edges. Then I created a couple of copper cuff bracelets. I like using a long diagonal fold to start the bracelet design and following this with appropriate texture. I quickly learned that it’s important to begin with a longer and wider piece of metal than the size of the anticipated product. I folded the metal first and then cut the final bracelet shape. When I annealed the metal bracelets with a torch during the fold forming process, beautiful colors appeared on the pieces.

brace cuff

I’ve also been experimenting with a star shape shown in Newton-Brain’s book. First I made several pairs of earrings and then I created a larger star and used it as a pendant on a strand of coral. I gave the pendant a liver of suphur bath, tumbled it and then used the torch on it again. It adopted a very rich color.

star                   star2

coral Now the struggle is to try to develop some ideas of my own for fold formed shapes. Hopefully, I’ll have the time this year to stick with fold forming until I’ve either developed some new ideas or convinced myself that I CAN’T come up with anything new. Wish me luck.

Off the Design Table . . .

AND on to someone’s wrist. I’ve been working for several weeks to get the new bracelet design where I want it. The dimensional bracelets, for which I have a tutorial on etsy, have continued to be popular, but I think it’s really important to stay ahead of the market. I’m continually wondering what the next bracelet design should be. Since those dimensional bracelets are so comfortable and fit most anyone, I thought I should stick with another cuff type bracelet.

front2                tiger

As I played with a new design, I employed the SCAMPER (from Bob Eberle) creative thinking technique in which each letter stands for a different way to make a modification. Using the ‘C” verb,  combine, I wanted to put the wire cuff and some wire weaving together. The “R” verb, reverse, led me to move the swirls in the middle of the dimensional bracelet to another point on the cuff. This also helped me decide to pull in the top middle rather than expanding it as I’ve always done before. I played with the other Scamper verbs and feel they helped contribute to the final product.

front                    tibet

I’m still contemplating which of the various versions I like the best. The weaving was probably too difficult for my current technique on the two shown below. This will need practice. Yet, I was able to do a smoother job on the first bracelet shown at the top, indicating the promise of a smooth weave. I’m hopeful that I will continue to improve my skills.

side                   side2

It’s interesting that these bracelets are so comfortable. I’ve been letting various people try them on and they usually comment “this feels good.” I think that means I should stick with it.

My favorite part of the design process is the development of an idea and I’m truly thankful for the many creative thinking techniques I keep tucked in my back pocket. Now I’m at that tedious stage where I simply must keep practicing without much more modifying. Let’s just hope that my technique is on a fast learning curve!

I also hope these new bracelets will be coming to a wrist near you.


It’s that time of the year when many people begin to gear up for the holidays. For designers, that often means art/craft show after show after show. We speculate by buying materials and creating our products and then hope that we’ve designed things that people will want. It often seems like design roulette. The time and monetary investment in the products can weigh us down, but could it also make us cross?

I hope the season is remaining pleasant for you as it is for me. This year, instead of being cross, I chose to make a cross. One cross led to another and I am beginning to think I should just start a cross store. See what you think. Below are just a very few of those I’ve made.

crosses lots

The plain wire crosses are the easiest to make being composed of two pieces of 14 gauge wire soldered and then wire wrapped in the middle. These are then patinated and textured to provide the look of wood.

The flower-like wire crosses are a little more challenging. I eyeball the shape and occasionally create one that’s not as symmetrical as I would like. Yes, I know that I could use a jig and make them perfect, but that wouldn’t be me. Although you can’t see it very well in this photo the fold formed leaf at the top shares a jump ring with one of this style crosses.

The embellished cross required some problem solving before hatching. I saw a pendant in a magazine that was made by attaching beads to a filigree with wire. I tried this and liked the look except for the back shown below.

filigree backThis was one big mess! As I pondered how to cover the mess, I, of course, thought about making it into a cross. First I soldered a wire cross onto a sheet metal disc.

cross back 

Rather than overlapping the wires for the cross, I cut the side pieces and placed them beside the vertical wire. This made the cross a bit flatter. Finally, I wired the decorative filigree to the wire of the cross and finished the piece.


 cross done


I made a smaller cross, not pictured, by whittling down the filigree piece. This removed the lovely outer curves and I didn’t like it as well.

Finally, I created a scroll type cross using double wires rather than single.

scroll cross




Customers at my last show seemed to enjoy selecting a cross and then choosing either chain or leather to go with it. They also had a choice of selecting a sterling silver cross. I’ve made these in various sizes.




Now it seems that every time I contemplate a new design, I can see the product made as a cross. Yet, I guess this is better than being CROSS! (I think I just heard a loud “Amen” from the other room.)

A Touch of Silver

I’m trying to get braver about the wire and metals I’m using. While copper is my mainstay, a few of my artist friends seem to be pulling me more into silver. I’m not easy to pull! In fact, if you asked them, I feel certain the word “stubborn” would be used to describe my lack of action. Lately, however, a few of the boutiques I serve have asked “can you do that in silver?” My quick response to the owners is usually, “I can try.” The silver has turned out to be a reasonably easy alternative for the designs and the pain of what I paid for the wire and sheet metal is eased when the silver jewelry sells relatively quickly.

I’ve tried to approach the use of silver as I learned to do in my Creative Problem Solving workshops by first stating a question. In what ways might I use sterling silver wire and sheet metal to create pleasing designs that are still affordable? There are a number of criteria inherent in that question including using as little material as possible while still producing a good design. The criteria create nice parameters within which to work. If I develop an idea that doesn’t fit the criteria, then I stop and revise it or throw it out. So far things are working reasonably well within this plan.

The pieces in the photos below show several new silver pieces that all required a little soldering. All of these were small enough that the cost was low and they stayed within the parameters for my problem solving. The earrings might have stayed in place without solder, but I wanted the waves in each direction to remain touching. They were bit tricky to solder.


Rings seemed an appropriate project since they don’t require much wire. The original ring with the heart was designed by my friend at Sherry’s Jewels I made a variation that is adjustable and added a little solder to connect the loose end of the heart to the band.



The next ring design, shown with two variations is composed of four wires, each of which I soldered into a circle before placing them together. Each wire is about 1/2 inch shorter in length than the wire outside it. I then fitted each circle of wire inside the other and soldered in appropriate places. This one is adjustable as well. The one on the right is an overlapping version while both ends of the rings are meant to show on the left one.


I used some left over wire to make the wire ring for the leaf necklace. The ring was soldered and then shaped and textured. The leaf is made from the foldforming technique mentioned in a previous post.



I consider this type necklace a collage since the dangles are an eclectic collection or things. This one also features a copper wire dragonfly and hangs from leather.

I have found that silver wire handles a little differently than copper and due to its lower melting point I have to be more careful with the torch. Yet, I think practice will work these things out and soon I’ll be braver about the size and cost of what I’m making.

Speaking of silver . . . I regret to inform you that I found a tiny bit in my hair the other day. I’m fortunate to not yet have to color away any gray and found that little silver on the side snipped right away with the scissors. If you see me out and about one day and note a small bald spot on my head, you’ll understand what happened.

Time to Weave

I would like to believe that the verb “weave” implies compatibility. Woven garments and rugs come together with complimentary colors and fibers whose blend creates something of beauty. Tapestries and other wall hangings do the same as the threads weave together in harmony.

Families, communities and cultures are also woven and consist of unique individual “threads” that come together to produce the whole. I’d like to believe that the majority of these result in compatibility, but know this isn’t always the case. I do, however, appreciate the idea of being woven into a family where I can retain my individuality yet mesh with my loved ones to create the personality of the group. (We do have personality!)

I think it is interesting how our personalities and mannerisms may vary slightly when we are woven with different groups of people. Just as the other threads of a woven art piece can affect the look of the individual fiber, people influence one another. Some human tapestries bring out my better side while others do the opposite.

Many years ago we lived in Alexandria, Louisiana. There was a weaver in my housing edition and I could see her loom in a big window when I went on walks by her residence. I often thought it might be relaxing to learn this skill. It seemed the ultimate art form resulting from knowing just what fibers and colors should be brought together; yet I never felt this was my artistic calling.

I also admire those jewelry artists who do a beautiful uniform job of wire weaving. I find it to be a difficult technique to master, but refuse to give up. This week I noticed a bracelet design in one of the bead magazines at the bookstore. (Yes, we are lucky enough to still have a bookstore!) The bracelet featured a weave I hadn’t yet tried; so I read the directions and went home to make it. It’s true that I’m often refuse to buy the entire magazine for just one thing I like. Shame on me!

The picture immediately below shows the first piece I tried. It was going to be a bracelet, but I couldn’t ever quite get the clasp right, so it ended as a necklace. I used 6 copper wires as the basis for the weave. They wanted to curve and I let them.


I wanted to see if I might include beads in between the weaves and tried adding small blue seed beads on the second necklace. I would have liked using larger beads, but found they created too much distortion in the shape. You may note some of this even with the tiny seed beads.


After practicing on two necklaces I decided to try another bracelet and used nine base wires in this. Again I worried with the clasp for several evenings and eventually found that with nine wires, the bracelet really didn’t require a clasp. You can see from the photo that I simply swirled the wire ends.




There are many other methods for finishing these, but this seemed appropriate at the time.

There is a certain rhythm to weaving. I thought the repetition would be tiresome, but find it somewhat relaxing in its tedium. Wire weaving, however, lacks some of the personality of weaving with fiber. I’ve yet to discover any surprise regarding how the wire will come together; perhaps I’m too new to the adventure. I think, however, that my next weaving will include some colored hemp along with the wire in order to play with a broader spectrum of possibilities.

While I continue to practice this wire weaving, I likely continue considering what I bring to the tapestries in my life and will hope to add something positive to each. By doing so, perhaps I can influence another “fiber” to do the same.

What have you woven today?


Yes, the title is a made-up term that has nothing to do with math. Anyone with math phobia can continue to read this. The term could stand for multi-tasking or something else. Its meaning In this treatise follows the basis of multitasking; yet it means doing something that requires several steps of design planning to occur at the same time on multiple strands of beads. I think that makes this a double multiple task . . . ?

I was multipling for several days this week as I worked on a couple of articles/tutorials for Magpie Gemstones ( The first has been published and the second will be out this coming week.

Creating with multiple strands has always been a challenge for me; but this week I remembered a piano pedagogy instructor from a long ago workshop in Dayton, Ohio. She said we should attack our weaknesses. Sometimes I’ve felt I should just avoid my weaknesses, which I prefer to call areas of challenge. This week, however, I heeded that instructor’s words and attacked.

I read the available information online and watched a few videos. Then I commenced to work on my own pieces. When multipling, I had to consider the length of each strand in relation to the others, the bead placement in relation to the strand length and the placement of multiple strand spacers and connectors which somewhat alter strand length. Please don’t ask me how many times I restrung things before I got everything in sync. The two pieces immediately below are thoroughly discussed in Creating Multi-strand Necklaces: Part I 

              brownblog turq6

Part II of this discussion, soon to be published, discusses clasps, connectors and spacers for multi-strand pieces. The bib style necklace with leather and the three strand necklace below are featured in that article.

   image           bib



I was enthused enough about multi-strand pieces to go ahead and purchase a fancy clasp for one at the bead show I attended today. It was so pretty, that I decided to use it in the front of the choker style necklace. I don’t make much bling, but I liked this clasp. So, there I sat at the workbench again – multipling.


Now, I need to get back to singling rather than multipling and stop making up new words!

Freedom to Play Around

Before I begin, let me assure you the above title is not a statement about marriage.

Do you play with wire? One of the most enjoyable parts of playing with wire is manipulating it in various directions just to see what it does. There’s something relaxing about the freedom of working WITHOUT a pattern or a set idea of how a piece will turn out.

Art is one of the few places where the guidelines for problem solving are so open. For example, we’ve recently had a problem here at the ranch and needed a prescribed outcome. There was absolutely No Freedom regarding how things should turn out. When your irrigation pivot won’t run and you have to problem-solve a solution, you want the outcome to be a pivot that runs! (0bviously!) In art, however, the outcome may be unexpected, yet appreciated.

I have worked with what I call “double wire” designs for several months. You may recall the necklaces shown on May 28 which were double wire designs. The Chaos Necklace series has pieces that also begin with the double wire idea.

Today, I wanted to show two of the newer pendant-type necklaces that have hatched as a result of playing with the double wire idea. Both of those shown below feature tourmaline that I purchased from Magpie Gemstones ( I actually used just one strand of tourmaline to complete both of these pieces and have also used some of that strand for other things. It was a good buy!


tourma2It’s interesting to see how different this style turns out when the wire starts in the same manner.

I’m not sure why I call is double wire, since all the pieces are made from a single piece that doubles back on itself. The challenge is how to make that single wire into a pleasing configuration. Give it a try and see what you can come up with.

wire                                        wire2

If you aren’t a wire worker, just play around with drawing the way the wire might go. By the way, if you come up with something exciting, send it my way!!!

Freedom to play around can be found through many venues. It might be the way you dunk the basketball or a new dance move. Perhaps you play around with a new configuration in arranging a shelf full of books or nick knacks. I think that freedom to play around is just as much an attitude as an action. Am I stuck doing things the same old way, or am I free to try something different? Am I free to let those around me try something new?

Lest one of you takes the above to heed and get’s fired, I should remind you that we need to choose appropriate routes to freedom. If your boss isn’t into it, take care. If you ARE the boss, why not give an inch? We could all stand to play around just a bit more.